Happy Mother's Day (from Child #5)


My five sibs and I grew up in an immaculately kept house, surrounded by music, books, art, and encouragement. All six of us have gone on to lead extraordinary lives, each of which in some way mirrors our mother, Lois Lonnquist. She can play (and I mean really play, with or without sheet music) any stringed instrument, including the piano and was always able to ramp cash by playing gigs, first with her dad in the bars around the WPA project where he worked, later with my dad (who looks a bit like Orlando Bloom in this picture, doesn't he?), and eventually with all the little Lonnquists in tow. When I was little, she got her pilot's license to fly the two-seat Aronca Champ she and Dad bought so they could take aerial photos, which Mom developed in an old school dark room in our basement. (And yes, The Dakota Ramblers are still married, Dad being hardy enough to stay married to an artist and smart enough to know how lucky he is.)

When I was in high school, Mom went to college (having made it as far as she did after dropping out of the Indian res school somewhere around eighth grade), but she was home while We Six were growing up. She described herself as a "housewife and mother", but she was also a stringer for the local paper and had a post-kids-growing-up career as a newspaper librarian and editor. Now she has a post-career career as an author, traveling to various Montana historical societies, doing a musical presentation on her meticulously researched book, Fifty Cents an Hour: The Builders and Boom Towns of the Fort Peck Dam.

My mom is a good mom for grownups: a wellspring of excellent advice with the gracious spirit to keep most of it to herself. She's the genetrix of my mad grammar skills and in no way responsible for my inferiority complex beyond the reality that she is so exhaustingly amazing. My greatest frustration as a daughter has been witnessing her be too hard on herself. My greatest luxury as a mother is being able to offer this extraordinary woman as an example to my daughter.

Thanks, Mom.

Ruth Hurlburt Hamilton's "Song for a Fifth Child" was published in Ladies Home Journal in 1958, and as #5 of my mother's 6, I always felt a proprietary edge when she recited it...and when I became a mother myself, its meaning was not lost on me.

Song for a Fifth Child
by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton


Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth
empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
hang out the washing and butter the bread,
sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She's up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I've grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping's not done and there's nothing for stew
and out in the yard there's a hullabaloo
but I'm playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren't her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
for children grow up, as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep.

Comments

That's so very sweet!

Happy Mother's Day to your mom and mine, and to you, too, Joni, a shockingly good mom in your own right.
jennymilch said…
Your mother sounds truly amazing, Joni, but you also seem a bit fantabulous in your own right (and I don't even know you)--writer, co-creator of this blog, and aware that, sorrowfully and also miraculously, babies don't keep...

Happy Mother's Day, ladies. Thanks for this great resource, too!

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